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A350 XWB Production Commences

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

03 September 2010


Airbus has announced it has begun the manufacturing of parts for its latest product, the A350 XWB, at its dedicated plant in Germany.

“The A350 XWB sets new benchmarks for the aviation industry and passengers. Advanced materials make the new Airbus the most economical and environment-friendly aircraft in its class,” says Tom Enders, Airbus Chief Executive Officer, announcing the start of the A350 XWB programme.

Production will begin with at the Stade plant in Germany, where the construction of record-breaking 32 meter by 6 meter upper wing shells will be constructed; the largest integrated component to be built by Airbus from weight-saving carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP).

The upper wing shells will be built using advanced production processes at the 30,000 square metre production hangars. For the first time automated tape-laying technology will be used not only for the carbon fibre but also for the lightning strike protection and fibreglass components. The wing shell, measuring 31.6m by 5.6m, will then undergo polymerization in the autoclave. This high-tech oven is one of the largest facilities of its kind worldwide and can accommodate two wing shells simultaneously.

In addition to laying the wing skin panels, the Stade plant also produces the stringers (longitudinal stiffeners used in wing panels). In order to produce these components Airbus has for the first time set up a flow line production system which measures 140 metres in length.

Other innovations include an entirely new quality control system which now permits inspection of the external and internal surfaces of CFRP components of that size simultaneously. The advanced plant also boasts the use of waterjet technology for edge trimming and a high-precision automated conveyance system in the production hall for large components.

In addition to producing the upper wing shells for the A350 XWB, the Airbus Stade plant is to build the vertical tailplane and, for the first time, CFRP fuselage shells. Approximately 100 employees will work in A350 XWB production by the end of 2010. This figure is expected to rise to around 500 when production reaches full capacity, Airbus said.

The A350 XWB is a new family of widebody airliners (A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000) for which Airbus currently has 528 confirmed orders. With an airframe made of 53% lightweight carbon fibre composites, the aircraft has enormous fuel-saving potential. Final assembly of the A350-900 is scheduled to start in 2011, with the first delivery expected in 2013.

TAGS: aviation

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